Erma Cole, 95, a former Baker City resident, died Jan. 18, 2005, in a care home at Aloha.
She was born on Feb. 26, 1909, and was raised at Baker City. She was the 11th child of Eva Lovina and John Dexter Willey.
She was a tomboy growing up. She loved reading history and graduated from Baker High School. She met Leonard “Doc” Cole at a Grange Hall dance at Hereford where she was visiting a sister.
Doc was working on the highway construction at that time. They were married on Feb. 2, 1929, at his sister’s home in Vale.
The couple bought 40 acres on April 24, 1935, about seven miles north of Vale. Since Doc was raised on a big ranch in Malheur City, he had a love and knowledge for the lifestyle. They had no ditches or water until the spring of 1937, so Doc went to Homedale to drive truck.
They lived in a tent house complete with wood flooring and a wood-burning stove while this house was being put together. It was a two-room home, with a wood-burning stove for cooking and heat. Doc carried water for Erma from the outside pump. They had no electricity or running water.
Erma was an excellent cook and baker and she always had plenty of food for company or whoever showed up at mealtime. She sewed her own dresses and knitted and crocheted many things.
Erma’s dad came to live with them until he died in 1939. The couple had big hearts for helping people and especially loving their many nieces and nephews. Every summer (which was their busiest time of year) they had kids staying on the farm — gathering eggs, slopping hogs, riding a gentle horse, baking with Erma or following Doc around.
In 1944-45, they bought 160 acres and some dry land 7 miles north of Vale. They moved into a house they bought and had moved from Vale in 1946.
In 1970, they sold the ranch and moved to Vale. Doc worked for the Flying Realty for several years. Then they bought a trailer house and traveled all over the country.
Erma loved her friends. She played bridge in several clubs and belonged to the Garden Cub of Vale, PEO, Eastern Star and was active in the Christian Church.
In the early 1970s, they flew back for a month’s visit with their niece, Sally, and her family at Berkeley Heights, N.J. They toured the East Coast, Florida, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and New York City.
Doc died at home in Vale on Sept. 30, 1992. Erma handled her sadness well until she fell and broke her hip and crushed her shoulder. This landed her in a nursing home at Ontario for two months. When she was released she sold her house and moved to Lake Oswego to live with Sally and her family. She remained there for five years.
She stayed in touch with old friends and family by mail. She celebrated her 90th birthday in 1999.
A few days later she fell and had to move to a care home at Aloha, where she lived for six years.
She died a month before her 96th birthday.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, February 25, 2005
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor